Challah French Toast | Birthday Brunch

french toast, bacon, fruit, and syrup on a table.
A great way to start the day.

In my household, we celebrate 3 birthdays in the span of one week. My oldest brother Luke, and my youngest brother William were both born on October 5th, and my birthday is on October 8th. As a family whose time together is mostly spent around the kitchen table, this usually leads to some special meals. This was definitely one of them. My brother’s girlfriend, Alden, offered to make french toast for the whole family on Luke and William’s birthday, and I was honored when she asked for some assistance! We all had little snacks in the morning, waiting for the real feast that was planned for brunch. By the time we finished cooking, the boys were eagerly standing behind us, grumpily asking if we were done yet. We’re still working patience in our family… Luckily for Alden and I, it was well worth the wait.

I’m going to be honest with you- french toast is not usually my first choice of breakfast food. I tend to prefer a good ol’ pancake or a crisp belgian waffle, but this recipe may have changed my opinion on the matter. I have never had french toast made with challah bread before, and goodness gracious, it was a game-changer. The custard mixture in this recipe combined with the fluffy challah bread make it taste and feel almost cake-like. (and who doesn’t want cake for breakfast?!) The outside had a nice crunch, and the inside stayed soft and fluffy. Served with the bright lemon zest and and fresh berries, this meal was a highlight of birthday season.

Sliced challah bread
The star of the show.

The recipe was adapted slightly from this recipe which was adapted slightly from Alton Brown’s recipe found here.

French toast on the griddle.
French toast on the griddle.

French Toast

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons honey (warmed in microwave for 30 seconds)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tsp. cinnamon (& additional cinnamon to be sprinkled on top)
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tbs. lemon zest
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 loaf of sliced day old bread (I used challah) – slices about 3/4 inch thick

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. (or the “warm” setting for a big batch)
  2. Whisk milk, half and half, eggs, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a 9×13 pan.
  3. Soak bread slices for 15 seconds on each side and transfer to a cooling rack (that is placed on top of a sheet pan to catch any drippings). Let rest for 2 minutes. (optional: Sprinkle extra cinnamon on both sides before cooking)
  4. Spray some Pam in the pan and then heat a tablespoon of butter in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat and cook french toast slices for 2-3 minutes on each side in batches.
  5. Transfer cooked slices to a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove and zest lemon on top. Serve with fresh fruit, powdered sugar and maple syrup.

We didn’t necessarily pay attention to the baking step. Because we were cooking for a bit of a crowd, we transferred the slices into the oven on “warm” when they were done. They stayed in the oven closer to 8-10 minutes. This allowed everything to be warm at the same time. If you are making a single batch, I would recommend following the original cooking instructions, but the warming method worked very well for us!

French toast, bacon, berries, and syrup.
Breakfast fit for a birthday boy or girl!

Needless-to-say, we had a pretty fun morning. It’s always so much more satisfying and enjoyable to cook when you get to do it with someone else, and then share the finished product. If you have some time this weekend, you should invite some friends over to try this recipe! And if I happen to be one of those friends, that’s pretty cool too…. no pressure or anything… Anyway, thanks for joining me for another recipe! I hope you get a chance to try it out.

Happy cooking!

Mom’s Hummus

Hummus and Flatbread
Hummus and Flatbread

My mom has become an expert at making hummus, and I have gotten flatbread toasting down to a science. Okay maybe both of those are exaggerations, but we quite enjoy our attempts anyway! Her hummus is salty, warm in flavor, and usually has a bit of a kick to keep things interesting. Store-bought hummus just doesn’t cut it in our house anymore. We haven’t attempted to make naan from scratch yet, but the store-bought naan is fluffy and delicious on its own. When you add a little oil and some spice, it takes it to a whole new level, and we’re happy with that for now! Here’s the recipe for one of our favorite things to serve as a snack or side dish…

Ingredients

( for hummus)

  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 3 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tbs. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbs. ground cumin
  • 3 tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

(for flatbread)

  • 1 pkg. naan, pita, or flatbread of choice
  • 3 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tbs. ground cumin

Directions:

  1. For Hummus: Drain, rinse, and shake garbanzo beans in a colander/ strainer.
  2. Mix beans with all other ingredients in a blender or food processor. Ingredients should blend together to create a smooth consistency, but may need additional oil if they won’t blend well. Taste hummus and add in ingredients as you see fit.
  3. For Flatbread: Preheat pan to medium heat.
  4. Stir 3 tbs. of olive oil and 1 tbs. of cumin in a bowl. Brush or rub onto both sides of flatbread to lightly coat it.
  5. Place flatbread in pan for about 3 minutes per or until golden brown for each side. Cut into pieces for dipping, and enjoy!
Hummus and Flatbread
Hummus and Flatbread

This recipe is super simple, and can be customized and changed depending on your preferences or even what you’re serving with it. Sometimes we add lemon juice for a hint of brightness, tahini for some extra richness, or even a dollop of pesto for an extra pop of flavor. We even added roasted beets one time. It tasted great, but I’m not gonna lie… the color was slightly disturbing. Regardless, this is a great recipe to have on hand for your next dinner party or salty craving. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Alden’s Grilled Salmon

One of the things I miss the most when I’m away at school is cooking with my mom. I almost always have a list of meals that I want to prepare with her when I am at home. I usually miss out on eating fish while away at school because, to be honest, I don’t always trust the school cafeteria when it comes to seafood… But anyway, that causes fish to be somewhere around the top of that list of things to cook. Last weekend when I went home, the only people around for dinner were my parents and I. That meant I had even more control over the menu since I didn’t have to please the typical 6-8 people that we usually have around our dinner table. The weather at home had been quite warm, so the oven was essentially off-limits. We found a pretty good price for salmon at our local Sprouts, and it looked beautiful, so we decided on grilled salmon and veggies!

The finished product.
The finished product.

My brothers girlfriend showed me the most simple & delicious salmon recipe that ever was. Lemon, salt & pepper. That’s it. As long as the fish is fresh, it turns out perfectly every time!

Here’s how to recreate this lovely recipe:

Ingredients

  • 4 pieces of fresh salmon
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbs. salt
  • 1 tbs. pepper

*Salt and pepper can be adjusted based on your preference.

Salmon seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon juice; ready to be grilled.
Salmon seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon juice; ready to be grilled.

Directions

  1. Preheat grill. We waited until our grill reached 400º.
  2. Sprinkle both sides of the salmon with salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice. (You can allow this to sit for an hour or two if you would like, but it is not necessary.)
  3. Place 2 layers of foil on a cutting board or another flat, mobile surface, and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place salmon onto foil before sliding foil onto grill. This just keeps the salmon from sticking.
  4. Cook the fish for 5 minutes, flip & cook other side for and additional 5 minutes. Remove from grill & enjoy!
Grilled salmon and veggies.
Grilled salmon and veggies.

As for the veggies, we went with a very similar recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 zucchini
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 3 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tbs. salt
  • 1 tbs. pepper
Bell peppers, zucchini, asparagus, and lemons for our grilled veggie side dish.
Bell peppers, zucchini, asparagus, and lemons for our grilled veggie side dish.

Directions

  1. Preheat grill (once again, our grill reached 400º)
  2. Cut vegetables into relatively uniform pieces so they cook evenly on the grill. Zucchini in half for 2 shorter pieces. Cut both halves lengthwise into pieces about ¼ inch thick. Bell peppers lengthwise into 4-6 even pieces (depending on the size of the pepper). Asparagus snap each spear to find where the tough stem is, cut the rest of the bunch in the same place & discard. (This part of the asparagus is too tough to eat).
  3. Place 2 layers of foil on a cutting board or another flat, mobile surface. Place veggies on the foil before sliding foil onto grill. (Once again this just avoids the possibility of vegetables sticking or falling through the cracks).
  4. Cook for 20 minutes, flipping and rotating about half way through. This amount of time will allow the vegetables to retain some crunch. If you prefer for them to soften more, add 5-7 minutes. (Some parts of grill may be hotter than others, so keep an eye on them). Remove from grill and enjoy!
Bell peppers and zucchini on the grill.
Bell peppers and zucchini on the grill.

Both the salmon and vegetables are so simple, light, and fresh. As fun as it is to work from a complex or experimental recipe, sometimes the most basic thing is all you need. Salt, pepper, lemon, oil. What could go wrong?

Grilled salmon, veggies, hummus, naan, and salad.
Grilled salmon, veggies, hummus, naan, and salad.

 

We also made a salad, hummus and grilled some naan. I’ll be sure to post those recipes on another day, because they are just as delicious! Until then, happy cooking!

Arlene’s Banana Bread

“What should we do today?”

“I dunno, go on an adventure?”

Guess what we decided on for our adventure! We made banana bread. And it was adventurously delicious.

20140920_29 When my roommate and I arrived at the conclusion that we wanted to make banana bread, I was feeling extremely lazy and had resigned to the fact that we could just hop on over to Trader Joe’s for a “just add water” boxed mix. And believe me; there is nothing wrong with those trusty TJ’s mixes. My roommate, however, volunteered her mom’s classic recipe.

Banana bread isn’t necessarily one of those delicate, beautiful desserts that “look too good to eat,” (and our version was no exception) but it is quite delicious and satisfying.

20140920_08

 

We stayed pretty close to the recipe since banana bread is hard to get too crazy with before it turns into something completely different. Arlene knows what she’s doing! We may have over-baked them slightly, but I actually enjoy a little bit of a crisp on the outside. We have decided that our oven may run a little hotter than others.
20140920_11

Arlene’s Banana Bread

  • 1 cup Butter
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • 3 ½ cups Flour
  • 2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 2 cups mashed bananas
  • 1 cup Sour Cream
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1½ cups Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350° F and spray mini bread tins with non-stick cooking spray. Combine butter, sugar, and eggs. Blend bananas, sour cream, and vanilla in a blender until smooth. Add both mixtures together, and then sift in dry ingredients. Add in chocolate chips once the mixture is well incorporated. Bake for 50–60 minutes. Makes 8–10 mini loaves.

20140920_15

 

Our recipe used the same directions, but the ingredients as follows:

  • 1 cup Coconut Oil
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • 3 ½ cups Flour
  • 2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 2 cups mashed bananas
  • 1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1½ cups Chocolate Chips

Once again, you’ll see an attempt to make this recipe “healthy.” That was slightly intentional, but we also didn’t have butter or sour cream, so we used the next best option for both. Either way, the banana bread was flavorful, soft, and everything else you could want from banana bread.

20140920_28And here is a picture of my lovely roommate who helped… We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!

Happy Baking!